Future Candidates Flock To LI For One Week To Learn Effective Campaign Essentials

March 16, 2012 | By Lauren Levy

Last week the Leadership Institute’s Future Candidate School (FCS) welcomed a bright, new class of aspiring candidates and entrepreneurs.

Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Committee and LI volunteer faculty member, shared how he got involved in the public policy process.

He credits LI with his start. While a college student, a conservative campus group member approached him and invited Mark to their meeting.  He showed up, and was forever hooked.

“I took LI’s Youth Leadership School, and now I’m here 20 years later trying to impart this knowledge to you all.”

Jessica Myers is a young conservative with big dreams. As a student at Thomas Nelson Community College she has participated in campaigns and events in her community, but she is frustrated with the lack of conservative clubs in her area. After attending the Future Candidate School, she plans to start a local chapter of the Young Republican club.

“If I hadn’t known about LI, I wouldn’t have been here trying to fulfill my dreams,” Jessica said. “The fact that the training is such good quality and low cost is very beneficial and invaluable to young people passionate about the cause.”

On Monday, LI President Morton Blackwell shared tips on how to create and grow an organization. “Young conservatives should consider the option of some day becoming organizational entrepreneurs themselves,” Morton said. “There are possibilities now and there will be possibilities in the years to come for creating successful public policy groups.”

Other lectures focused on candidate development and explored topics such as assessing readiness to run for office, potential past or present problems that might hinder success, attributes of effective candidates, making a good impression and viewing yourself as others see you.

“If people don’t like you, they won’t trust you,” said Stephen Clouse, founder and president of Stephen Clouse & Associates. “If they don’t trust you, they won’t believe you; if they don’t believe you, they’ll never comply with what you’re saying.”

Attendees made their way back to LI on Tuesday for more training, which focused heavily on coalition building and organization development. For Michael Kicinski, who is running for United States Congress to represent New York District 22 (formerly NY-24), coalition building will be an important factor in his campaign to rally opposition against the incumbent.

 “We need proper representation above all and the right votes in Congress,” Michael said. “Since this is new to me, I saw the advantage of getting training. This was extra helpful and necessary, and I’ll be passing this information on to others in my team.”

Faculty also discussed how to develop your campaign message using a Leesburg Grid for you and your opponent, the pros and cons of joining existing organizations, working with your local party and identifying key groups in your community, recruiting and working with volunteers, and using coalitions to benefit your campaign.

On Wednesday, attendees learned the ins-and-outs of fundraising.  Topics included maximizing fundraising potential with events, funding your cause with direct mail, the rules of campaign donations and ensuring your campaign financing and organization structure is legal, creating your “kitchen cabinet” for campaigns, strategies you need to know to succeed online, and personal solicitation for a campaign.

“Give every potential donor – no matter how big or small – the opportunity to ‘invest’ in your campaign,” said Nancy Bocskor, president of the Nancy Bocskor Company. “The little old lady who sends you $1 in a direct mail piece will be the first to vote for you on Election Day.”

On Thursday, the final day of the FCS, faculty tackled message development. Topics included fine-tuning your campaign strategy, understanding and reviewing polling data, getting on the ballot with petitions, preparing for attacks from the left, and using the media to your advantage.



“We are surrounded by media 24 hours a day, 365 days a year,” said Dan Gainor, vice president of Business and Culture at the Media Research Center. “Knowing how to navigate the media is key for survival in today's world.”

Jill Upson, who is running as a West Virginia delegate for Jefferson County’s 65th district, found the lecture particularly helpful.

“The information is just so valuable,” Jill said. “It really teaches you how to combat the opposition. It prepares you for the bad things they’ll say, but also gives you good responses.”

Hoping to improve jobs and the economy in her area, Jill came to LI to get the training she needed to run a successful campaign. “There are so many speakers from so many backgrounds. . There’s no way you could go to one class and learn all this,” she said.

To wrap up the evening, Mark Vargas, a consultant in government affairs and international business development, gave his success story of lessons he’s learned from the campaign trail.

“I thought I knew a lot – till I got here,” said Thomas Spencer, who is running for city council in Claremont, FL. “There wasn’t a class that didn’t add to or help me perfect something.  I filled up my entire notepad and needed extra sheets of paper. I was texting friends throughout the lectures about some of the things I was learning. The information was priceless!”

“I loved the trainings! I already signed up to be a donor to the school,” Thomas said. “I want to sponsor a student’s training fee and travel once a quarter so they can attend these trainings.”

If you would like to learn more about LI’s Future Candidate School or enroll in an upcoming training, click here.